Sermon: Becoming True Children of Light.
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”[Ephesians 5:8]
How do we know if something is an act of God or not? After all, it is not as if God signs all His messages. And it is not as if His messengers walk around with a giant neon sign floating overhead announcing who they are. How can we tell? In our Gospel lesson, we have Christ’s healing of the blind man who had been blind since birth. But, Jesus did this great act on the Sabbath and this caused some of the Pharisees to question if Jesus was of God or not. Although it is quite apparent that the Pharisees had made up their mind long before this act, their question, in and of itself, is not a bad one.
In order to answer this question, we need to look at Deuteronomy. In Chapter 18, verses 21 and 22, we have our answer:
And if thou say in thine heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
This is a passage that every good Christian MUST commit to memory, for unfortunately Christianity is replete with charlatans and false prophets.
Last September, I was driving late at night to my father’s house from the airport. I had come to celebrate his 86th birthday, which turned out to be his last. As I was driving, I tried to find a station to which to listen, and I happened onto a Christian station. On it, an Evangelist was announcing to everyone that the end of the world would be, if I remember correctly, May 23, 2011. Well knowing what Christ had said about the end, that we would know the season, but not the precise day or hour, I knew this man was wrong. Subsequently, I discovered that he had predicted the end at least once before and had obviously been proven wrong when the date came and passed without results.
Yet, notice that some of the Pharisees who were so knowledgeable of the law did not seem to know this passage in Deuteronomy:
Therefore said some of the Pharisees, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.” Others said, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” And there was a division among them.
Christ said that if the blind man would wash in the pool of Siloam his eyesight would be restored – and it was! But the Pharisees were not interested in the truth; they were only interested in preserving their view of the world:
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
One of the hardest lessons I have ever learned in my lifetime was how dearly people hold on to their view of the world – even when it is proven wrong. I have found that people are willing to do almost anything to avoid changing their view of the world. They would rather disown their own flesh and blood rather than change. I saw it as a young man raised in the south where some much cherished prejudices existed for decades after the civil rights movement – and probably still exist today. And I still see it now that I am much older.
Many of the Pharisees could not accept Jesus as the Christ precisely because it went against their preconceived notions as to what and who the Messiah would be. And this blinded them to the truth as surely as that the blind man could see the truth.
So, here we have a wonderful account of a miracle that proved that Jesus spoke the truth. We have images of the pool of Siloam, which speaks of the great sacrament of Holy Baptism. And we have all those concerned, testifying to the truth. And yet these Pharisees still could not accept it. This is a great lesson for all of us here today. And it is a lesson supported by both our Old Testament and our Epistle lessons.
In our Old Testament lesson, we have Samuel anointing David as the next king of Israel while Saul, the current king, is still in charge. The new king was a son of Jesse, but Jesse had many sons. And Samuel, thinking it would be one of the older sons, was surprised to find out that it was none of them. Samuel had to look beyond appearances. He had to trust the Lord, who knows all our hearts, to tell him who he should anoint as king. And God let Samuel know:
And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him: for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.
But, in our Epistle lesson, we have exactly how we should act:
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
Christ is the great Light of the world. He shines the truth on all, and He embraces all of us with love, just as light embraces us totally when it shines on us. And this great Light gives sight to us who were blind with sin. We lived in darkness, and could not see; now, we live in the Light and see clearly. This, in turn, requires US to be a light in this world – a light of truth and a light of love. But we must also remember we are not the source.
We all know from our third grade science that the moon gives off no light of its own. Rather, it reflects the light of the sun. Likewise, we Christians do not give off our own light, but rather reflect the Light of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. But this does not pardon us from changing. The light cannot be reflected if we continually live in the shadows.
No, we must live by the truth, and this requires one very hard thing for each of us to do as Christians. We are NOT to reflect our society; we are to be above it and removed from it. And we must do this as Christians so that we do NOT fall into the same trap that some of the Pharisees fell into. We are NOT to become so wedded to what we have been taught and that frames our reality that we cannot see the Truth when it is before us.
As reflections of God’s great Light, we are to be able to put aside cherished beliefs, views, and interpretations if they conflict with what we know is divine Truth. And we are to change, even when our own society says that there is no need to change:
BE YE therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
We are to change. We are to be the dear children that God so wants. We are to walk in love and be followers of God. We have to shed the old man of sin and put on the new man of God.
But there is one more thing that we are required to do, and it is probably the hardest thing for any of us who were raised in the culture:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
Not only are we to change, we are also required to shine the Light of Truth on those things which are at home in Darkness. For we Christians raised in this society of ours, this is a very hard thing. We are told to respect other views and other opinions, and by-and-large this is correct. But we are also told here that we are to challenge those things which are a lie. We are to speak in love, but still tell the truth. If we as Christians can do this, we may not be popular, we may even be reviled, but we will be doing what God wants us to do. We just have to make sure that what we say IS the truth. And we MUST say it in love. That means we try to persuade as opposed to accuse; we try to convince instead of sounding dogmatic. But we must also realize that, just like the Pharisees, many people would rather deny the truth and preserve their view of the world than to change.
In the meanwhile, if we take Deuteronomy to heart and test what we hear, if we are open to the Truth, even when it challenges our preconceived notions, if we can be as loving and as sympathetic as we can, then we can be pleased and blessed to know that we are acting like true children of God and true children of light.